Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Second Impressions of Saigon

I’ve been in Saigon for two months now, and it feels like time to take stock.  I was going to write about the differences between Saigon (as Ho Chi Minh City is still commonly called) and Hanoi, but it feels too early to do that just yet.  I need to feel more settled here before I can make a proper comparison.

I lived in Hanoi for two and a half years and felt very comfortable there, but I always thought that I took my best pictures when I left the city.  My favourite shots from that time were taken in Sapa, Bac Ha, Hoi An, Cambodia, even the outskirts of Hanoi, rather than the centre.  Perhaps there’s something about familiarity with a place which makes it harder for me to take good pictures there.

These pictures of Saigon were all taken in the last couple of months.  I can’t really call them first impressions, as I spent a fair amount of time here before coming here to live.  So these are second impressions – some of the scenes, people and details that have caught my eye.  How will my pictures of Saigon change as I become more familiar with the city?  Time will tell.

16 Responses to “Second Impressions of Saigon”

  1. Mr Mole

    It would be easier to say which of these I didn’t like (none), the first one just has it for me, both the subject and the angle. I also like the man on the scooter with the trailer.
    All the best

  2. mycoignofvantage

    I grew up a country girl stateside in Alabama and the largest city I have ever lived in was Atlanta Ga.So I don’t know if it’s common for people in large cities to gather together on the street to play cards like they do in one of your photos. I guess I have the idea in my head that Vietnam is still raw somehow, in the sense that it’s still rural in many ways, and I don’t want to patronize anyone’s culture with the label ‘developing world’ being a country girl myself. I know how insulting it can be! I am amazed by things like open air markets which they still have in Europe even. I can’t imagine going to buy my dinner from a streetside stall the way I am sure you sometimes do in Saigon, even though I have bought food this way in Mexico. My step father was a dairy farmer, so when we wanted beef, he took a cow to the co-op and a week later we had steak! Still country but not quite the same.

    • Jon Sanwell

      Lots of Vietnam is still rural – and I hope to show that side of the country in this blog too. Saigon, though, is a big, noisy, messy, exhilerating city.

      A lot of Vietnamese life is lived out of doors. It’s very common to see people eating, drinking, cooking and playing together outside, which is a gift for a photographer.

  3. Wina

    Brings back old memories…. Please take a picture of the street electrical wire…. That was what caught my eyes first when I entered the city…

  4. Jenny Trozell

    Your pictures are just amazing, it feels like I am right there when watching them! Wonderful job!

  5. mariaarenas

    I LOVE the black and white shot of window cleaners (?). the angle is so interesting! kudos, Hanoi is great and Ha Long bay is just breathtaking

  6. drewskya1

    What can I say but Awesome Job – Awesome Photos. I and my wife will be moving to Saigon in September, from Jakarta, and really looking forward to exploring the city. My wife is a photoblogger as well and there are many similarities between your work and hers. Please take a look at http://www.gangs-of-indonesia.blogspot.com and I think you’ll see what I mean. In Jakarta, the tiny lanes are called ‘Gangs’ funnily enough, so that’s the story behind the name of the blog. Once we arrive, you and she should meet up to go do some shooting.


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